Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Big Week - Post 2

Day two of the processing dawned another cold day, but not as windy. This was good as we had decided that no matter how cold it might be we were going to have to get after it and just suffer through. By nine we had the first bird in the killing cone and had a pot of 150 degree water rolling. One adjustment that Melissa figured out was to turn the water heater up to the dangerously hot level of instant scalding and then close the doors to the younger ones.

The second day was aided by what we all learned the day before. Mitchell and I worked in tandem. Both he and I would take a bird from the cage and process it through to the eviscerating table, delivering a headless, footless, plucked chicken. From there the process got more specialized. Step one was done by either Faith or Claire, they would cut the oil gland out of the tail. The bird would then go to Stephen who would open the bird up around the neck, freeing the windpipe and craw from the membranes around the neck. Melissa then took the chicken and cut it open from the posterior and took its insides out. The chicken went back to Stephen who cut the neck off, stuck it in the cavity and threw it into the salted ice water. After 30 minutes in the water Clark and Claire (Faith if Claire was working the oil gland) would pull the chicken out of the water, bag it and let me know it was time to weigh it. I would weigh it and put it in the refrigerator. While all of this was going on, Grace was watching Joy and Sam.

I had heard from some friends that they had fond memories of chicken processing day when they were kids or that their kids had find memories of these days and I must admit that I had doubted them. Now that we are hitting a stride and beginning to see some progress in our speed I can see why these days were so special. I feel bad for Grace as her work is keeping her from being out there with us having all the fun.

Mitchell and I have decided that we hate all chickens and are going to try to kill all of them. It helps us with the work we do on processing day. We are infinitely fascinated with the nervous system reactions that we see the birds go through – I’d heard that a chicken with its head cut off would run around, it had never occurred to me that a headless bird would flap its wings as you carried it to the scalding station. Melissa and Stephen were endlessly fascinated by things that Mitchell and I did not care about. They would dissect hearts and lungs whenever they got a lull in the action. What each part was or did was something they wanted to know. The most interesting kid, to me, was Claire. She cared about the guts and such and would sit at the table, eating an apple, and watch the process going on. Claire had the best comment of the day when she asked Melissa if she could cut her own apples now that she was trusted with eviscerating a chicken.

Thursday and Friday were both days where I was up before the sun to milk Isabella, worked throughout the day and ended up milking her after sunset. I would come in, eat, help put the kids to bed and fall into bed exhausted and totally satisfied that I had just had a great day. Even after the first day, when we messed up a bunch of stuff and had to lose all of our work to the purpose of the sale of the birds, it was a great day. We learned a lot on Thursday that made Friday a better day. We were out in the fresh air working with our kids. I know that they all have memories of these two days that they will take with them and cherish. They are why I am here and not in Grapevine, so days like Thursday and Friday are my pay days.


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